Report: MTA’s Capital Project Delivery Process is Broken

A 1 Train pulls into the new South Ferry station on Oct. 28, 2017. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

The cost of building new subways and commuter rail is more than twice as high in New York City compared other major cities, including London, Paris and Los Angeles.

The Regional Plan Association released a comprehensive new report, “Building Rail Transit Projects for Less,” that analyzed three rail projects — Second Avenue Subway, East Side Access and the 7 Line Extension — built recently in New York City and compared them to similar projects in peer cities.

RPA’s research finds the reasons for high costs and delays go beyond overstaffing, outdated work rules or padded contracts. From decisions by political leaders at the outset of projects to the final stages of construction, entrenched practices and procedures lead to a cascading series of cost overruns, delays (which lead to more cost overruns) and a complete failure of cost containment.

“The MTA’s capital project delivery process is broken,” Scott Rechler, chair of Regional Plan Association’s Board of Directors, said in a news release. “Projects take far too long, and cost way too much. If we are asking the public to pay more to modernize our public transportation network, then the MTA must give confidence that it can spend that money effectively and efficiently.

“The broken system that is in place today is unfair to the men and women that keep the agency running, it’s unfair to the MTA’s contractors, it’s unfair to the hard-hats performing the work, but most of all, it is unfair to the public,” Rechler added.

RPA is calling on the MTA, state and city political leaders and labor to adopt a series of reforms outlined in the report. RPA estimates that the adoption of these reforms as a whole could reduce project costs by at least 25 to 33 percent, saving billions of dollars and rebuilding public trust.

To read the full report, visit http://library.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-Building-Rail-Transit-Projects-Better-for-Less.pdf.